It is estimated that almost 8 million people are living in conditions of modern slavery in India (GSI 2018). The skewed sex ratio in some regions of India has fuelled the trafficking and selling of women and young girls as brides within India. Women are reportedly sold off into marriage by their families, sometimes at a young age, and end up enduring severe abuse, rape and exploitation by their husbands. It is also reported that women and girls from impoverished backgrounds have been lured by promises of marriage by younger men from urban areas, then forced into sex work once married.
Muthyam Anitha was forced to stop her education to look after her ill father. After her father passed away, it was Muthyam’s responsibility to care for her family and she went to work as a domestic worker. After an incident with her aunt’s husband, Muthyam’s mother worried about her prospects and forced her to get married to a man she did not want to marry.
I passed Class V and attended only twenty days of Class VI. I stopped going to school as I had to look after my father who was not in good health and suffered from TB. Five years later, my father passed away and the responsibility of running the family fell on me and my mother. To support the family, I worked as a domestic worker in two houses and earned Rs.2,500 a month. Later, I worked as a school caretaker in an early child care centre and earned Rs.3,000 which I gave to my mother.
She sent me to my aunt’s place in Guntur to help my cousin who had delivered a baby. My cousin’s husband pressured me to have physical relations. I resisted strongly and withstood his forceful attentions. He attempted to rape me on a number of occasions in the fields and at home. I told my cousin about her husband and that I would go home. She pleaded and asked me to stay back and said that she had no objection to her husband’s behaviour. She felt more secure that he was not having an affair with a stranger. I resisted and left.
I told my mother and she was very worried about my prospects for marriage. A distant relative brought a match of an unmarried 32-year-old man with some property. I did not want it, but to please my mother,I agreed. He was a mentally challenged person and had no idea about a marital relationship. Everyday, my sister-in-law asked me if the marriage had been consummated and whether he had sex with me. I was irritated at such a probe. When she found out that we had not even touched each other, her husband showed him videos and pictures of copulation and started talking to him about this. My husband became curious and would pinch me and touch me in front of everyone. I was disgusted with his behaviour. When I confronted him, he would get violent. I could not tolerate his attentions, which could get painful at times. I returned to my mother’s neighbourhood,but lived alone. On the intervention of community members, I moved back with my mother. She still insists that I should return to the husband as he is well off. I clearly told her that I don’t care for having a husband or his property. Just leave me alone! She does not bother me any longer. I am preparing for my Class X exams through open schooling.
Narrative provided by M Venkatarangaiya Foundation in their report ‘…and they never lived happily ever after. The battle for justice goes on: Voices of married girls in Telangana’